China: Branding is more than just a logo, Zespri rep tells Shanghai forum
Late last month, more than 100 industry professionals attended the high-profile Produce Marketing Association (PMA) Fresh Connections: China event in Shanghai, drawing government officials, produce firm executives, service providers and retailers into the mix. Representatives from leading fruit companies took part in the opening panel after a keynote speech by Zhu Qidong of Pagoda, an integrated fruit retailer.
As the panel's moderator, Naturipe executive vice president of marketing Robert Verloop highlighted the importance of production, marketing and sales in shaping a valuable brand, in addition to an appealing name of course.
The industry veteran, who has held previous executive roles at Sunkist Growers and the California Avocado Commission, told attendees the produce industry could learn a lot from the success of coffee chain Starbucks; it's about selling to customers, especially young people, the idea of a 'Starbucks lifestyle' in a relaxed social space away from home and work.
"People's impression of the Starbucks concept is: if you are not home and not working, then you could chill at Starbucks with friends. And people bought that idea and were willing to spend time there outside of the professional and family life. That is what I think is the key to Starbucks' success," Verloop said.
He said 'family' and 'freshness' were two keywords in Naturipe's culture, highlighting the importance of sustained efforts to update brand concepts with new trends.
"Diet and health are two increasingly popular buzzwords, which should be considered to be included into the brand concept. As a matter of fact, the specific fruit variety or the color of packaging could also be part of the brand," he said.
Zespri China country manager Lewis Pan said it was never enough for a brand to just rely on a logo, highlighting a good brand concept should incorporate both function and emotion into its content.
"For example, the nutritional value and taste are functional, but something like 'share the great taste with your family' is something that relates to the emotional appeal of the product," he said, adding that the health of the individual consumer's health was just one part of the equation.
"Helping the baby grow up happily is a strong emotional appeal to mothers."
In terms of Zespri itself, he said the marketer focused on providing fresh kiwifruit across seasons through production in diffferent regions, while also dedicating itself to the development of new varieties, bringing freshness and excitement to consumers around the world.
He said packaging was another key aspect of brand building, highlighting how Zespri attaches cutlery to cases so that consumers can eat their kiwifruit on the go.
Driscoll's VP for Asia Jae Chun discussed another simple yet effective case of packaging. As berries are demanding when it comes to storage, even when growers and retailers manage to keep products in good condition, many consumers lack the expertise and resources to do the same. Thus, when a consumer buys a pack of berries it's possible there may be rotten berries left in the end, which could damage their perception of the brand.
Therefore, he said the company sold its products in small cases as well to discourage massive discount promotion campaigns. Instead, the group encouraged consumers to buy a small portion every time and purchase frequently to get the most out of the Driscoll's berry experience.
Qidong agreed with the other panelists on the importance of product quality in building brands. Pagoda has launched several product lines of late including 'wild apples' and ''candy cantaloupe'.
He said the produce retail chain was ready to set up its thousandth storefront in China. Recently, the retailer set up an international procurement division to ensure the steady increase of supply from overseas, which could reach up to 60-70% of sales in the future.
In addition, for all of the retailer's local stores there is a policy whereby if a consumer is dissatisfied with a produce item they can request reimbursement with "no reason, no receipt and no actual product".
Zhu believed this would completely alleviate any concerns consumers may have about fresh produce quality.